Friday, October 27, 2006

A supposedly fun thing I'll never do again

I'm reading: A supposedly fun thing I'll never do againTweet this!

"It's a fun science project," my sister-in-law's brother (not to be confused with my husband) told me last summer.

So with Smartypants' class reading Project Mulberry and Splinter's class learning about the Silk Road and a science fair looming, silkworms sounded like a great project. If there were a continuum of How Much Care Other Living Things Require with a cactus on the far left and a human infant on the right, silkworms would be on the right, just behind puppies.

Every day I clean out their little poops which the instructional catalogue describes thus: At first their excrement looks like small black specks, but as the caterpillars age, their excrement resembles miniature corncobs. Just before the caterpillars start to spin their cocoons, they release all feces.

Then there's the food, which I am cooking up just about every other day now. Mix 1/3 cup of water plus three tablespoons Dry Silkworm Diet, microwave for 20 seconds, mix again, microwave again, cover tightly with wrap and allow to cool. It stinks, literally and figuratively. This process is every bit unpleasant as changing a baby's diaper.

The silkworms are not cute, nor are they fun to watch. They can't be played with and we have so many that I've had to divide them into several, equally smelly, containers. I can't allow myself to kill them off or leave them out for the birds which is sort of ironic because the only way to get usable silk from the cocoons is to boil them with the little moth still inside (think lobsters). Dare we let the 65 (we ordered 25 eggs, but got a windfall) or so caterpillars make it through their pupa stage, the moths that hatch out cannot eat or drink. They can't really fly either, only flutter around a bit. Like some guys I knew in college, they live only to mate. And unlike those guys, they will die within five days. The successful female will lay 200-500 eggs, which, thankfully, can be refrigerated for up to two years and will make a great Christmas present for your child's favorite science teacher.

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